Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Greek mythology has it that a beautiful nymph by the name of Syringa ( lilac's botanical name), was pursued by Pan, the god of the forest. Pan chased Syringa through the fields and forest. To avoid capture she turned herself into a bush, the fragrant and most beautiful lilac.

Our garden is lush with lilacs. Lavender, magenta, white and blue blossoms create hedges that offer beauty and aroma to walk along on a spring morning. Later , after a day in the studio, a walk ( "passeggiata") through the garden before dinner with a glass of campari & soda, is ever so rewarding.
This is also the time to fill a bucket and cut lilacs for tomorrow. More on that later.

lilac 'Krasavitsa Moskvy'
A white/pink variety that is my favorite this season. I find it especially stunning when used solo in a vase.

" And where are the lilacs?"
Pablo Neruda

The Spanish poet Pablo Neruda was familiar with the lilac and used it symbolically in his writing. A line from a poem written during the Spanish Civil War, asks the question where are the lilacs. The use of lilacs in the phrase often interpreted to point to innocent children that go into hiding in time of war, or noting of the absence of happy times. The lilac representing youthful innocence and humility.

The common lilac ' Syringa vulgaris' is part of the olive family, with it's origins in Europe and Asia. The lilac's popularity and hardiness prompted the early colonists to transport it to the New World. The earliest known lilacs in the USA are in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. These lilacs at the Governor Wentworth Mansion date back to 1750 .

Time to bring lilacs into the house to be a visual treat and add fragrance to fill the room.
Here is what I have found to be the most successful way of cutting lilacs for a vase.
The best time to cut lilacs is early in the morning or at the end of the day. In this arrangement I have featured Wedgewood Blue, Ludwig Spaeth, and President Lincoln lilacs


First, fill a clean bucket with warm water, then take it with you into the garden along with a sharp pair of pruners. Cut the stem at an angle, remove the lower leaves, and immediately put it into the bucket of warm water. Once the desired amount of lilacs have been cut, place the bucket in a cool, dark place for at least 5 hours, overnight is desirable. Re-cut the stems at an angle before placing them in a water filled vase.

Along with lilacs there are tall late tulips and the viburnum 'opulus' is just starting to flower with it's characteristic chartreuse color. The chartreuse color is a great alone or as a punctuation in an arrangement.
Still ahead in the garden are the later lilacs, 'James Macfarlane', ' Miss Kim', 'Miss Canada' and another favorite and perfume filled meyeri 'Palibin'.

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